Tent City in Sacramento?

That appears to be the consensus according to this column in the Sacramento Bee by Marcos Breton, and he is right, a tent city will not solve the problem.

What Sacramento has to realize is that the homeless narrative has moved and it is now acceptable to insist on the right to camp in public if there are no available beds for the homeless.

Providing tent cities until enough permanent housing for the homeless is developed is a lost cause because the homeless population is not numerically static or community stable; the numbers go up and down and the population moves around.

The only model now working that we have found is the homeless transformation campus developed in San Antonio, Texas. Haven for Hope has enough room—housing 1,600 any given night—because of its large acreage, to accommodate large numbers of the homeless, many sleeping outdoors in tents or not, but in a safe, secure location with services available.

An excerpt from Breton’s Column.

Sacramento looks poised to approve its first city-supported homeless camp.

The City Council votes appear to be there, if public comments from council members are any indication. The people agitating for homeless camps have been at it for years, outlasting opponents until the makeup of the council changed in their favor.

What pushed this terrible idea over the top has been the months of relentless protests within the council chambers. Protesters have grown increasingly profane, showing up each week to attack the city’s anti-camping ordinance.

“You guys aren’t doing your job,” a man who identified himself as James said to council members at the Feb. 16 meeting. “So I’m going to urge people to build riot shields, gas masks, ballistic armor, and next time your cops want to come out and raid, we’ll meet them. I’m from Seattle; we meet our cops head on. We meet them (expletive) head on. … I don’t care. I have no respect for your authority.”

These type of comments have become routine at City Council meetings. Council members who disagree or ask for respect and order find themselves on the receiving end of invective.

Councilman Steve Hansen said he has been abused verbally for expressing skepticism over the idea of a homeless tent city in Sacramento.

“I’m now the cold-hearted bastard,” Hansen said. “(As a child), I was in a shelter with my mom when her boyfriend beat her up, but I get called names because I won’t give in.”

A few weeks ago, protesters blocked council members from exiting an underground garage at City Hall. The members were trapped down there for 45 minutes. Also a few weeks ago, a Sacramento police sergeant and four officers found that their personal information – addresses, phone numbers – had been posted on a website. The same thing happened to some council members in January. Much of the personal information posted online was inaccurate, but that’s beside the point.

These pressure tactics clearly have borne fruit. Last week, a large delegation from Sacramento trooped up to Seattle to check out city-sanctioned tent camps. The group included four City Council members, the city manager, deputy city manager, police chief and others. Sacramento Bee reporter Ryan Lillis attended as well. Supporters of the camps in Seattle said the tent cities are designed to funnel homeless people into permanent housing and connect them with services, although, as Lillis recently wrote: “it’s too early to tell whether that’s happening.”

Sacramento has a less acute homeless issue than other large California cities. According to numbers compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, San Francisco, San Jose and even smaller cities such as Salinas have larger homeless populations.

Ryan Loofbourrow, who runs Sacramento Steps Forward – the coordinating agency for homeless services in the county – said that on any given night there are about 2,600 individuals experiencing homelessness in the county. The Salinas/Monterey area has roughly 3,000, according to HUD. San Jose has 6,556. San Francisco is at 6,775. San Diego has nearly 9,000.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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